WCTSS Cayo Costa Cruise - November 13th - 15th 2009

by Ron Hoddinott

When I pulled into the parking lot at Eldred's Marina in Placida, Ed and Becky Combs were rigging their Hunter 23.5 Saint Somewhere. Ed jumped down and congratulated me on the conversion of Whisper to a Tri-Sport. "You're gonna like it, " he said. Not too many people knew about the Tri-Sport conversion of Whisper. It had only been completed the day before the event, and some of the gel coat touch ups hadn't even been buffed out. This cruise was her first outing as a Tri-Sport!

Bill Dolan, AKA "Catboat Willy," came by to greet me and take a photo with the new Whisper. Jose Rodriguez and his family also arrived with their Sanibel 18 Luna as I was launching. I motored out of the canal at Eldred's with the amas in tight to the hull, and once outside the marina canal, I extended and pinned the akas without any problem.

The sail down to Pelican Bay was delightful. We finally got the right weather for this trip and the forecast was excellent for the weekend. Ten knots out of the NW to N carried me along as I watched the white pelicans, and called on the VHF for other Squadron members. I knew of several who were coming, but I had no idea that we would set a new record for attendance!

As I arrived at Pelican Bay I couldn't help but break out in a big smile. Mother nature had improved the protected sand bar at the north end, so much so that we could get all our boats inside. It was nice and deep even for keel boats to anchor stern to the beach! Some people were so used to seeing me with Whisper, that they didn't even notice at first that it had two additional hulls! It really is a different boat, and there are always trade offs. It seems to be a bit faster to windward in winds over 12 knots, and of course very stable on all points of sail. I can move around the boat while sailing better, and of course the sailing is much more relaxed, the SeaPearl mono is much more of a sailing canoe and must be actively sailed all the time, except in the lightest of winds. But it still moves through the water like a SeaPearl, and is only a bit heavier than a standard SeaPearl. Although I don't have the extra room that the full SeaPearl Tri has, I don't have to tie everything down under the decks anymore and I always cruise by myself, so I don't really need the extra space.

After beaching and anchoring Whisper stern to the beach, I greeted the folks who were already there. Of course Ed and Becky were there, and Jose' and Cecelia with their two boys, and Paul and Dodie Wagonner with their SeaPearl Tri - Wing-It. Bill Fite sailed Moonshadow from Eldred's Marina along with Simon and Cristi Lewandowski in their Seaward Fox, Proton. Terry Clements sailed up in Riff, his SeaPearl 21. Paul Brogan arrived in Brogan, his SeaPearl 21. Ted Jean sailed over from Pineland in his as yet unnamed WW Potter 15, and Art and Brenda, and Bill Whalen sailed their Peep Hens into the anchorage. Mark Trip and his son's friend, Josh came in aboard Solid Gone, their SouthCoast 22, and Dave and Teresa made the trip north against the wind from Cape Coral aboard Hot Tub, their Macgregor 26 X. Another SeaPearl arrived, looking spiffy with Jonathan and Petra Arthur aboard. Ron Hess also arrived with Shallow Minded, his SeaPearl 21. Later on Friday, Bill Dolan and new member Bill Sloan appeared in their Marshall 18 cat boats, SeaBird and Denise Marie.

Of special note, was the presence of cruisers Charlie and Laura Jones aboard Tehani, their well traveled Seafarer Meridian. Charlie and Laura have been cruising the Gulf Coast, having departed from their Texas home some months ago. They plan to winter over in Florida and the Bahamas. It was a special honor to have them join us! You can keep track of Tehani and message with Charlie and Laura on the Trailersailing.Com website. Charlie is a boat builder of note, having built Travis Votaw's B & B Princess cat ketch among others. Member Dale Niemann hosted them at his dock and home in Clearwater for a week during high winds and seas. It's nice to see how well Squadron members take care of their friends.

So by Friday evening 17 boats were in the anchorage. Several more arrived on Saturday to make a total of 25 boats attending the outing. From my records that beats or at least ties the record for that event.

On Saturday the "plan" was to sail over to the Calusa Land Trust picnic spot just east of Shell Cut into Bokeelia, eat lunch and then return to Pelican Bay. But a "plan" is just a suggestion for our members. Of course you are free to sail where you wish, and most of us did! Nine members sailed over to the Calusa Land Trust spot, where after having lunch discovered that the predicted switch to the NE turned out to be a strong wind out of the NW, and a long beat back! I heard Ed and Becky say they would sail over to Cape Haze and then tack back to Pelican Bay on Starboard tack. I took off first and concentrated on making Whisper fly the windward ama and make good time to Cape Haze, about an hour away to windward. Meanwhile, no one was following me! When I tacked at Cape Haze, I didn't see anyone, so I just headed back, keeping in the center of Charlotte Harbor to take best advantage of the outgoing tide. Bill Sloan and Bill Dolan had sailed on down to Matlache and Bert's Bar. Ed and Becky came back and sailed into the "hurricane hole" in Pelican Bay for some quiet time alone, Ted Jean decided to pack it in for the long drive back to his east coast home, and the rest of us straggled back into Pelican Bay, tired but still determined to party!

As I sailed in, I noticed we had gained several new boats! Dimitri and his daughters were there with his MacGregor X boat, Dennis and Linda Bradley had Egret pulled up on the beach, Ruth and Terry Nagel were there with their Siren 17, Whisper. Rick and Linda Eggers were aboard Mental Floss their MacGregor 26 S, Niels had his Peep Hen, Dixie Chick, looking spiffy, and a couple from Bokeelia, Mike and Moe had their Catalina 22 anchored near the beach.

Terry Nagel and a shore party gathered firewood while Dave Barnicoat fired up some fire logs. Before long the chairs were circling the fire and various warming drinks were being passed around, including a bottle of Kalua from Brenda Bell! Although it wasn't really cold out, after wading through the water from my boat, it really felt nice to sit by a warming fire with warm and friendly folks sharing stories and enjoying the children enjoying themselves. The night sky was another marvel this weekend. One week before a historic meteor shower, there were several "shooting star" soaring overhead, to say nothing of the sparks from our fire spiraling into the night.

The sail home on Sunday was a long but fun beat with winds starting out light, and building in the afternoon to just over 12 knots. It took Bill and I about 3 hours to make the trip back to Eldred's Marina, and only another hour or so to get home. Another great WCTSS Cayo Costa Cruise was in the books!